Santo Connection

If you like baseball-related podcasts, listen to Jeff Santo’s entertaining version called Peanuts Popcorn & Crackerjacks. Besides talking to personalities such as former Chicago Cubs catcher Jody Davis and entertainment lawyer Scott Zolke, Santo often discusses his experiences as the son of a famous major-league baseball Hall of Famer, third baseman Ron Santo. Jeff’s wife, Christie, serves as yin to her husband’s yang.

The podcast is a reminder that one of my favorite pieces of baseball memorabilia is a photo of Ron Santo my dad Lloyd took at Crosley Field in Cincinnati in 1965. Ron Santo is standing in front of the Cubs’ dugout looking at us during batting practice before the game with the Reds. A bat boy is holding three bats and a glove in the background to Santo’s left. The 25-year-old Santo had already played four full seasons in the major leagues at that point, having debuted on June 26, 1960, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.

The Cubs’ road uniforms were pretty basic back then. “Chicago” covered the upper chest area of the uniform; the logo of a young bear was on the left short shirtsleeve. Unlike today’s uniforms with pants that go down to the shoes, Santo’s and the bat boy’s pants ended about a foot above their shoes. Their blue stirrup socks over their white socks covered the area between their pants and shoes. To me, that’s the classic baseball uniform. I even wore that type of uniform in Little League.

Fortunately, I saved the scorecard from the game, which the Reds won, 9-4, on Saturday, June 19, 1965. Either I or my dad meticulously kept track of each batter in every inning. Even though the Cubs lost, I did get to see my hero Ernie Banks hit a home run off Reds starter Jim Maloney in the fifth inning and Santo hit another homer off Maloney in the seventh. Pinch-hitter George Altman accounted for the Cubs’ other two runs with a bases loaded, pinch-hit single in the seventh. Years later, I saw Altman speak at a Negro Leagues Conference outside Kansas City, Missouri.

As it turned out, the Reds put the game away early with four runs in the first inning thanks in part to two errors by shortstop Don Kessinger who started the season in Double A. Fortunately for Cubs fans, Kessinger’s fielding improved, and he received a Gold Glove for fielding prowess in 1969 and 1970.

Cincinnati scored five more runs in the fifth off Cubs starter Larry Jackson. The big blow was a three-run home run by catcher Johnny Edwards. The Cubs tried to come back in the eighth and ninth innings to no avail. In the eighth, Jimmy Stewart (not the actor) singled, Billy Williams flied out and Santo walked. But Reds’ reliever Joe Nuxhall struck out Banks and Doug Clemens. (Nuxhall made his MLB debut at age 15 against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 10, 1944. He gave up two hits, five walks and five earned runs in two innings. His last game in the majors was on October 2, 1966, against the Atlanta Braves when he was 38 years old.)

In the ninth, Kessinger and pinch-hitter Joey Amalfitano singled with one out. However, Glenn Beckert and Stewart flied out to end any chance of a miraculous comeback. I’ve verified our account of the game by looking up the game on, a website that provides box scores and play-by-play summaries of most, if not every, major-league baseball games back to 1871.

According to, 6,976 people saw the two-hour twenty-four minute game. The umpires were Tony Venzon behind the plate, Al Forman at first, Doug Harvey at second and Shag Crawford at third. Venzon, Harvey and Crawford umpired a total of 66 years and worked in more than 9,999 games. Harvey alone umpired for 31 years and saw action in 4,673 games. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2010.

Looking back, I’m glad I got to see such stars as Banks, Santo, Williams, Pete Rose, Vada Pinson, Frank Robinson and Maloney when I was a teenager. Granted, Rose’s gambling problems and lifetime ban from baseball have soured me on Rose’s stature in the game. Banks, Santo, Williams and Robinson, however, eventually were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Robinson became the first Black manager in major-league history when the Cleveland Indians hired him in 1975 to lead the team.

I’m also thankful my dad snapped Santo’s photo that day in Cincinnati. Santo looks so young and fit in the picture. Little did we know then that Santo suffered from Type I juvenile diabetes, a disease that had to have shortened his career and adversely impacted his numbers. The disease and its complications no doubt played a part in his death on December 2, 2010, two years before his induction into the HOF by the Veterans Committee. At the time of his diagnosis before his minor-league career began, the average lifespan of a juvenile diabetic was only 25 years.

When Ron Santo completed his big league career with the crosstown White Sox in 1974, he had accumulated 342 home runs, 1,331 RBIs, 1,108 walks and 1,138 runs scored in 2,243 games. A converted catcher, Santo led all National League third basemen in putouts seven times, assists seven times and total chances nine times. When he retired, he held NL records for most assists in a season by a third baseman, most double plays by a third baseman in a career and most chances accepted at third base. He was named to nine All-Star teams and received five straight Gold Gloves.

He returned to the Cubs as a radio broadcaster in 1990 and rarely missed work despite undergoing heart bypass surgery, treatment for bladder cancer and the loss of both legs due to his diabetic condition. His statue stands in Gallagher Way outside Wrigley Field along with statues of Banks, Williams and Ferguson Jenkins. Those three plus Ron Santo were the corps of the Cubs’ pennant-contending teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s. All four are in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York. This year, Santo and four others were elected to the Cactus League Hall of Fame.

Jeff’s podcast, Peanuts, Popcorn & Crackerjacks, features interviews with baseball personalities and anecdotes from his life as Ron Santo’s son.

Check out Steve Dunn’s latest book, ‘Pug,’ ‘Fireball,’ and Company: 116 Years of Professional Baseball in Des Moines, Iowa. It is a definitive history of professional baseball in Iowa’s capital dating back to 1887. To find out more about the book or order a copy, go to He has also written 12 bios and 12 game stories for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). He has been a member of the Field of Dreams chapter of SABR since the fall of 2014.


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